Thursday, October 02, 2008

Cheshire GOP proposes mid-year budget review

Council Budget Committee member Tom Ruocco sent out the following email last night to the full Council and Town Manager:

Mike, Elizabeth

I think it's time to set a meeting of the budget committee for the purpose of discussing a strategy and goals for the next budget season. The idea of a fall budget review was raised during our budget deliberations this past spring, and I think we should follow through on it.

All of us acknowledged this past year that there were recessionary conditions. We acknowledged that state funding was unreliable and could be reduced. We also recognized that energy costs were placing additional pressures on residents and businesses. I feel that although there was acknowledgement of these conditions, the Council did not take the necessary steps to deal with them, nor prepare for the day when our revenue is cut short; not only from the state, but also from a slow economy and slow growth in our grand list.

As we move forward, we are confronted with known challenges which will have compounding effects to conditions which already exists. For example, the state is now predicting a 300 million dollar deficit based in part on reduced capital gains taxes resulting from the declines in the stock market. We face a revaluation which may have the effect of raising taxes on residents based on higher property values compared to the last revaluation of 2003. Furthermore, there are layoffs at the Casino's and reduced slot revenue which we know is a revenue stream for cities and towns. All this spells a tough budget year, but more notably, a tough environment for residents and businesses. Recessionary conditions have forced consumers to cut back. The Governor is looking for ways to cut spending, and we consider doing the same.

During the past budget cycle, as it relates to both the operating and capital budget, I put forth alternatives which would have reduced government spending by over 1 million dollars. I believe, in this time of economic difficulty, that we should re-visit those proposals as a starting point. Lets try to create a government that can spend less, and return savings to taxpayers in the form of lower mill rates. Going forward we may not have the luxury of offsetting taxes with surplus money and state funding. Frankly, that has been the mantra of the Council which has only served to cover up the size of the recurring spending and fuel the demand for higher revenues each year.

Now is the time to focus on spending reduction as a means to reduce taxes and avoid a serious budget meltdown like the one we had in 2003. We need to be proactive, not reactive. If we prepare now and set the standards for a leaner government, we will be ok. If not, and if the pattern continues, unreasonable burdens of government spending will continue to be placed on the backs of taxpayers. That practice we must change.

I am ready to meet at any time, and I hope we can address this soon.

I fully support Tom in his call for action. With talk of growing state budget deficits... and well-known problems related to lower Fairfield County and the state income tax... Tom is right on the money. Now let's just hope the current majority recognizes their failure at curbing spending* and begins to take action.

Tim White

* I asked about the town vehicle policy in February. It is now October... and nothing has been done yet. And they've done nothing with the pool for years... then there's the money wasted on consultants and the list goes on and on.


Breachway said...

Tim, I kind of figured you guys were already looking into these type of things considering the economy etc....good work on Tom's part for making the request.

Anonymous said...

May want to consider this even earlier--Apr/May 2009 after the Holiday & heating oil season is over. Economy will be in more dire straits then